Published: Friday, September 02, 2011
By Gary Graff for Journal Register Newspapers
Labor Day might be a holiday for some, but it’s a working weekend for musicians around the Detroit area.
The three major annual festivals — Arts, Beats & Eats in Royal Oak, the Detroit Jazz Festival downtown and the Hamtramck Labor Day Festival — create nearly 400 performance slots among them.
And while plenty of national acts roll into town as headliners, the events also open stages for dozens of locally based acts from all genres of music.
The hard work for fans, of course, is to figure out who to see, when and where.
Do you camp out at one festival on a given day or do you chase around town to catch the acts you want to hear — and try to tuck in some arts and eats along the way?
It’s a conundrum, and we’ll tell you one thing — it’s never easy.
To help out a little, then, here’s a guide to 15 (or so) of the local favorites you don’t want to miss if you can at all help it.
It’s not necessarily a comprehensive list of everyone who’s worth seeing, mind you, but if you can catch many, most or all of these, you’ll feel like it was a weekend well spent.
The consistently electrifying blues- and psychedelic-rock trio The Muggs has a pair of shows lined up for Arts, Beats & Eats: 8:30 p.m. Friday at the Royal Oak Music Theatre, opening for Goober & the Peas; and then at 8 p.m. Saturday on the Budweiser Stage, just before the Howling Diablos. No excuses will be accepted for missing them.
The independently owned and operated Detroit School of Rock and Pop Music, based in Royal Oak, brings the noise from all ages and musical approaches. The school will be in residence Friday through Sunday at Arts, Beats & Eats in the Stagecrafters Theatre and will celebrate the release of its first album, “On Record Volume 1,” at 4 p.m. Sunday.
A pair of Detroit’s most idiosyncratic and eclectic (that’s a compliment, by the way) rock acts — singer-songwriter Jessica Hernandez and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. — provide a sure-to-be-show-stopping one-two punch starting at 8 p.m. Friday on Arts, Beats & Eats’ Michigan Lottery National Stage, just before Panic! at the Disco’s headlining set.
The Toppermost Beatles Tribute has established its niche as one of the best rock homages in the area; we bet you’ll love them (yeah, yeah, yeah) at 2:30 p.m. Saturday on the South Stage in Hamtramck. And if the tribute act bug gets you there, head to Hamtramck for Danny D’s Rod Stewart act at 7 p.m. Monday on the South Stage.
Trumpeter Rayse Biggs has voluminous credits running from Motown sessions to Was (Not Was). He’ll preview songs from his forthcoming album, “For The Love of It” with an all-star band — with saxophonist David McMurray as special guest — at 2:30 p.m. Saturday on the Jazz Festival’s Carhartt Amphitheatre Stage.
The indie sextet Bear Lake is having its moment with the buzz-making new album “If You Were Me” and music placements in TV shows such as “One Tree Hill,” “Bones” and “The Gates.” Its Arts, Beats & Eats moment comes at 9:30 p.m. Saturday on the Ford Focus Alternative Stage.
Vocalist Kimmie Horne has been the Casino Writers Guild of America’s frequent Performer of the Year pick, but at 2:45 p.m. Saturday, she’ll show off her sturdy alto and broad-based repertoire in the great outdoors on the Jazz Festival’s JP Morgan Chase Main Stage.
The gypsy jazz troupe Hot Club of Detroit raises the bar on its usually high-caliber performances by adding vocalist Cyrille Aimee and saxophonist Jon Irabagon as guests for its noon Sunday set at the Jazz Festival’s Absopure Pyramid Stage.
Separately, Detroit mainstays Johnnie Bassett and Thornetta Davis are always worth seeing. Together it’s a bona fide don’t-miss, and that will be the case at 2:15 p.m. Sunday on the Jazz Festival’s Main Stage.
Violinist Regina Carter, a graduate of Detroit’s Cass Technical High School and Oakland University, plays traditional African folk music with her latest project, Reverse Thread, at 4 p.m. Sunday on the Mack Avenue Waterfront Stage at the Jazz Festival. Carter also plays with the Oakland University Big Band at noon Monday on the Waterfront Stage.
Well-decorated Detroit trumpeter Walt Szymanski, a graduate of and instructor in Oakland University’s Jazz Studies Program, has assembled a 12-piece band to pay tribute to the late drummer and mentor J.C. Heard at 4:30 p.m. Sunday on the Jazz Festival’s Amphitheatre Stage. Szymanski also will take part in a discussion about Heard at 6 p.m. Sunday in the Jazz Talk Tent.
As a writer and performer — including the songs “Chains of Love” and “I Must Love You” — Melvin Davis is one of the most underappreciated heroes of Detroit’s non-Motown R&B scene. Anyone who catches his 8 p.m. Sunday headline set on the North Stage in Hamtramck will wonder where he’s been all their lives.
Amy Gore has established her niche in Detroit rock history with her bands the Gore Gore Girls and Gorevette. The garage rocker’s latest ensemble, the Valentines, lets loose at 8 p.m. Sunday on the Budweiser Rock Stage.
Fifteen-year-old Grosse Point phenomenon Paulina Jayne is rapidly becoming Detroit’s answer to Taylor Swift and already is actively recording and writing in Nashville — with record companies taking notice.
You might be able to say you saw her “back when” if you catch her noon Monday set at the Royal Oak Music Theatre during Arts, Beats & Eats, kicking off a country bill that also includes Alan Turner, Redhill, Centerville and Annabelle Road leading into national newcomer Jason Jones.
Educated in Sterling Heights and at the Detroit School of Arts, saxophonist Rafael Ricky Statin — a protege of the legendary George “Sax” Benson — stirs together traditional jazz with blues, funk, gospel and Japanese music. He’ll strut his stuff at noon Monday on the Jazz Festival’s Pyramid Stage.